Is there something missing from your life? Possibly a wet, cold nose pressing on the back of your knee, or the click-clicking sound of nails echoing down the hall on your hardwood floors? Maybe it’s a furry head butting against your thigh petitioning for a treat or some undivided attention. If any of these things are absent in your life, and you wish they weren’t, then you, my friend, may be in need of a Certain Dog.

It can’t be just Any Dog, although often it is. Sometimes the Unexpected Dog—the one who shows up in your yard out of the blue with no tags, no owner, and no home—becomes the Certain Dog. Even more frequently, it’s the dog chosen from a rescue group or plucked from the overflowing kennels of a shelter’s Many Dogs who becomes that Certain Dog.



Mojo is our Certain Dog. It began one afternoon shortly after we’d moved into our new house. On that day we were volunteers at an event sponsored by several pet related nonprofits. One of them was Memphis Animal Services, from which a dozen or so puppies of different sizes and breeds were brought in hopes of stealing hearts and finding forever homes. The dogs yipped and barked while I affixed nametags on attendees, and Michael poured out glasses of wine from his post near the front door. As the facility filled with guests, MAS staff and volunteers mingled throughout the crowd holding young dogs in their arms so people could experience the full effect of their charming puppyhood. They licked the hands and faces of those proffering treats and extended their paws for more.

During a break from my duties I walked around seeking familiar faces and stopping to chat with friends and guests. “Awww, look at this one,” someone said. I turned to a MAS staff member holding a small, wiggling puppy. He was mostly white with several random patches of brown on his body. One marking on his lower back was shaped like a heart. He’s part Aussie and part Border Collie, the staff member explained. “Here, hold him,” she instructed. I accepted the squirming, panting puppy into my arms. I rubbed his head and cradled him.

“You probably wouldn’t like the kitty-cats we have back at our house, now would you?”

Oh yes he would, the staff member stated confidently. These type dogs are very friendly and would likely get along with any other pets in our household. She went on about what a great pet this particular puppy would be, but I dismissed her overtures and backed away toward my volunteer post. Moments later I saw Michael holding the same dog, and most likely listening to the same rap.

Later in the afternoon the MAS staff member returned— this time with reinforcement, a donor who pledged to pay the dog’s adoption fee and neutering cost. Whoa, slow down I told the two women. We’d just recently moved and were still adjusting to our new house. We’d barely unpacked. We’d discussed getting a dog at some point, and I assured them the dog would certainly be a rescue, but that was well down the list of priorities at this time.

Yes, but does the house have a fence, the volunteers wanted to know? Oh yeah, when we DO adopt, we’ve got the perfect backyard I heard myself saying. It’s large, and has a high brick and cedar fence. And a security gate. I couldn’t believe I was telling them this. They looked at each other as if to signal, “We’ve closed the deal.” I dashed away on some imaginary errand to break the spell I was obviously falling under. Later I noticed they’d returned to double team Michael. I saw him give a little quizzical shrug and then turn to pour out more chardonnays.

When the evening wrapped, the women returned with the puppy and congratulations on our adoption. But we haven’t adopted This Dog I protested. Oh yes, you have. Your husband really wants this puppy! He does? Yes, let’s get the paperwork squared away.

Honestly, I don’t remember much about what happened next. All I recall is that we were escorted to our car, and that the puppy with a heart on his rump was bundled into our backseat. Heading home Michael explained the women told him I really wanted—no, needed This Puppy, so he went along with the decision to adopt.

We named him Mojo, a word synonymous for good luck. But throughout the day you might hear one of us say something like, “I think a Certain Dog is ready for doggie den.” So, that’s how a Certain Puppy became our Certain Dog, and we certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.

Contact Deborah at for comments or suggestions.

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